Ohio State Basketball: 10 Reasons (Minus Jared Sullinger) the Buckeyes Are No. 1

Liz YoungbloodContributor IIIDecember 21, 2011

Ohio State Basketball: 10 Reasons (Minus Jared Sullinger) the Buckeyes Are No. 1

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes are the second-ranked team in the country behind star Jared Sullinger. But Sullinger is not the only explanation for the Buckeyes’ success.

    The team has a well-rounded core and important playmakers such as Aaron Craft and William Buford.

    Ohio State is looking to improve on last season’s early exit from the NCAA tournament. With the combination of intangibles—such as tough defense and good passing—and talent, this Buckeyes squad is the best team in the country.

Aaron Craft

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    Sophomore Aaron Craft plays the point guard position in a traditional—and very effective—way.

    He is not a combo-guard, nor is he a scoring guard who happens to start the offense. Instead, Craft is a good passer who can see the floor, get teammates involved and score when he has to. 

    As a freshman, Craft had complete control of the Ohio State Buckeyes’ offense.

    As a sophomore, he is even better. 

    Craft is averaging more than five assists per game to go along with nine points and three rebounds. His stats might not be gaudy, but his attitude and leadership are what make him indispensable to the Buckeyes.

Experience Playing Without Sullinger

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    Jared Sullinger might be the best player in America, but even the most skilled players have off-nights.

    Fortunately for the Ohio State Buckeyes, the team is more than just their All-American center.

    When Sullinger battled back spasms and could not play in games against the Texas Pan-American Broncos and Kansas Jayhawks, the rest of the team had to come together.

    Despite losing to Kansas, the Buckeyes played a complete game and were able to get other players, such as Evan Ravenel, involved.

    Sullinger appears ready for action, but can’t be on the floor every minute of every game. Especially if he gets in foul trouble or is still nursing a bad back, Ohio State’s remaining players must have confidence in order to take over a game.

Tough Competition

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    Unlike some other teams in the Top 25, the Ohio State Buckeyes have been tested.

    The Buckeyes have played three ranked teams, one on the road. The team beat the Florida Gators, crushed the Duke Blue Devils, then lost a close game to the Kansas Jayhawks in Lawrence without Jared Sullinger.

    The Buckeyes have faced skilled post players in Thomas Robinson and Mason Plumlee. They have also taken on top guards such as Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Tyshawn Taylor. 

    Ohio State has pushed themselves and responded. That experience will come in handy when conference play starts and especially in the NCAA tournament.

William Buford

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    William Buford is Mr. Everything for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The senior is averaging 4.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 16.4 points per game. When Jared Sullinger was out of the lineup against the Kansas Jayhawks, Buford scored 21 points to go along with five rebounds.

    Buford is a strong, tall guard who has spent four years in college honing his skills, and because of his in-game experience, Buford can adjust to different defenses on the fly. He provides a veteran presence and calming influence for an otherwise young Ohio State squad. 

    Scoring 20 points a night doesn’t hurt, either.

Ball Security

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes rank fifth in the nation with a 1.58 assist-to-turnover ratio.

    Led by Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes take care of the basketball and rarely make the type of mental mistakes that can cost a team valuable points.

    In addition, Ohio State makes good passes that lead to easy baskets. The team averages more than 18 assists per game, and eight players on the roster average at least one assist per game. 

    The team clearly values the basketball. Easy baskets combined with very few turnovers spell success against almost any opponent.

Field Goal Percentage

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes are shooting a blistering 50 percent from the field. Their success in converting baskets undoubtedly stems from their high assist rate.

    Even so, making shots is an underrated skill for most college basketball teams.

    If teams get open shots but cannot turn their attempts into points, their offense is unsuccessful.

    Another factor in Ohio State’s high field goal percentage is the type of shots they are taking. Almost three-quarters of the Buckeyes’ shots are two-point field goals, which they are converting at a very high rate.

    The team does not jack up unnecessary shots—they run a set offense and wait until an open basket presents itself.

Defense

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    The old saying continues to ring true: Defense wins games.

    Come NCAA tournament time, games are won by the smallest of margins. One good defensive play can be the difference between a National Championship and a first-round exit.

    Ohio State knows how to play defense. They held the Duke Blue Devils and the Florida Gators—two teams ranked in the Top 10 when facing the Buckeyes—to well below their season scoring average.

    Aaron Craft is a tremendous defender, especially on spot-up shooters, and Jared Sullinger holds his own in the post.

    The Buckeyes have enough talent to guard every position. They can force steals to ignite the break or play a tough, physical game.

Confidence

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    For the majority of last season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were saddled with a No. 1 ranking and incredibly high expectations.

    In the NCAA tournament, they were one of the favorites and fully expected to win a championship.

    Despite falling short of their goals, the Buckeyes gained valuable experience. They will be able to build on their success from last season with the confidence that comes from winning big games.

    Last season was a dream year for Ohio State. Of course they wanted to win, but they were just happy to be around at all. This year, it’s all business. The Buckeyes do not care about rankings or individual stats.

    The team knows it has enough talent and will accept nothing less than a National Championship. 

Depth

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    The Ohio State Buckeyes might be the deepest team in college basketball; eight players average more than 10 minutes per game. 

    The Buckeyes have enough players so that if anyone is injured or gets in foul trouble, they will remain competitive.

    An advantage of giving many players minutes is that when a reserve is asked to play for longer stretches, he will have game experience.

    There will be no working out the jitters or getting acclimated to game-pace. Ohio State has prepared its players, and the experience will show. 

Talent

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    In addition to their depth, the Ohio State Buckeyes have a lot of talent; at least four players are legitimate threats to have monster games. Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas have already proven they are capable of scoring points in bunches.

    Ohio State’s skill level across the board makes it difficult for opposing defenses to know how to guard the Buckeyes. 

    It is impossible for a defense to simply key on whichever Ohio State player is hot. When one player demands all of the defensive attention, it frees up the Buckeyes’ other playmakers.

    Ohio State can stretch defenses and does not have to rely on one player to do all of its scoring.